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The bishop of Methone (eleventh/twelfth century)

Accession number BZS.1958.106.334
Diameter 17 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 2, no. 30.4; Laurent, Corpus V/3, no. 1756. See also Wassiliou-Seibt, Siegel mit metrischen Legenden I, no. 953.


Bust of St. John the Theologian blessing and holding a book. Inscription in two columns: |̅Ι̅|ΟΘΕ||ΛΟ: Ὁ ἅγιος Ἰωάννης ὁ Θεωλόγος. No border visible.


Inscription of five lines preceded by a cross. Border of dots.


Θύτην Μεθόνης, ἠγαπημένε, σκέπις


Θύτην Μεθόνης, ἠγαπημένε, σκέπις.

Beloved one, protect the bishop of Methone.



Note some unusual features. Obv.: ΙΩ reversed. Rev.: at the end of line 2 the engraver first carved  the combination of letters as shown on our transcription, then, to fill the space, added an oblique line and one more Σ at the end in such a way that the whole resembles another Ν. On lines 3-4 one must read ἠγαπιμένε σκέπις as in Laurent. We think that the appellation ἠγαπημένος for St. John the Theologian is too common (cf. John 13, 23) to warrant any attribution of this seal to any specific person (and even less to Niketas of Methone, as proposed by Laurent without any convincing argument).

The interpretation of these anonymous seals of bishops has not been elucidated (DO Seals 1, 24.1, 24.2, 36.13, 50.2, 84.1, 87.1). We suppose that they did not necessarily belong to a specific bishop but were used during periods of vacancy of the throne by the administrators of the bishopric, who had to issue documents in the name of the bishop to come. We know that even in normal times. such vacancies could be long, especially since many of these elections and ordinations were in reality conducted away from the see itself, often in Constantinople, in spite of the canonical and synodal prohibitions. Cf. N. Oikonomides, "Un décret synodal inédit du patriarche Jean VIII Xiphilin concernant l'éelection et l'ordination des évȇques," REB 18 (1960) 55-78.

Today Methone, in the southwestern tip of the Peloponnesos. The ancient city is still attested in the 6th century; the bishopric may have already existed in the 4th century, but it (re?)appears in the early 9th as a suffragan of the newly created metropolis of Patras. It is mentioned in the controversial iconoclastic notitia (as a suffragan of Corinth) and then in all notitiae, starting with that of Leo VI, under Patras (Darrouzès, Notitiae, no. 3, line 762; no. 7, line 551). See Laurent, Corpus V/1, 482; Fedalto, 510; ODB II, 1356. The cathedral of Methone being dedicated to St. John the Theologian (NE 7 [1910] 156-57), this saint appears on most seals of its bishops.